Why You Should Design for Mobile Now

For a long time, I resisted getting a laptop, saying that I preferred the more comfortable keyboard and larger monitor with a desktop.  Similarly, I waited until late 2010 to get my first smart phone, not wanting to pay a premium to navigate the web on such a small screen.

I still spend most of my time online on my desktop either at home or at work, but I do use my smart phone, mostly to stay up to date with Facebook and Twitter.  But everywhere I look, smart phones are everywhere.  So if I was to assume that nonprofit constituents feel the way I do, I would be losing out on an opportunity to connect with supporters on their preferred platform – mobile.

Recently I attended a Convio webinar on mobile strategies for nonprofits.  While I encourage you to download their free guide A Guide to the Mobile Web: Best Practices for Nonprofits, I found these points by presenter Misty McLaughlin especially interesting:

  1. There are many approaches to mobile, such as a ‘mini site’ which highlights your highest value content or a ‘mobile optimized site’ – unless your organization is primarily providing information as your mission, it is usually not necessary to replicate full website content on your mobile site
  2. A good rule of thumb – when mobile visits in your web stats exceed 5% of your overall traffic, it’s time to have a definite strategy to communicate with mobile users
  3. For most nonprofits, it is usually better to focus on a mobile version of your website and not rush to create an app.  In addition to the expense of having to handle multiple platforms (iPhone, Android, Blackberry etc.), there is a much higher barrier to entry since constituents have to find the app, download it, and then remember to use it.
  4. If you’re currently redesigning your website, creating your mobile presence first will help you to provide a richer, more focused and integrated online presence
  5. Although tablets are the rage these days, it is usually not necessary to create a separate ‘tablet’ site since most desktop websites convert well to a tablet screen.
  6. Scrolling on mobile pages is more acceptable than while browsing on a desktop, but you should still limit scrolling on your home page (OK on secondary pages)
  7. If you’re CMS shopping, pick a product that will allow you to:
    • create content once for multiple platforms by separating presentation from content
    • provide auto device detection (so mobile users get the mobile site)
    • allow device-specific tailored displays

Key takeaway – mobile forces us to be smart about our content.  What are the most important actions we want constituents to take?  What is our key message – is it succinct, understandable and repeatable?  We only have our supporters’ attention for a short time, so it’s more important than ever to use that time wisely.

For examples of great nonprofit mobile sites, visit the US Fund for Unicef’s main website and then view its recently designed mobile version. Also, compare the  World Wildlife Fund main website with its corresponding mobile site.   When you look at your organization’s website on your phone, can you quickly find the information you’re looking for without getting frustrated?

For more mobile tips, listen to Nten’s webinar, Mobile for Nonprofits.   And remember that however you feel about using smart phones, you are not your constituents.